The Government has announced it will be extending the length of temporary visas issued to drivers arriving from outside the UK. 

Initially announcing a temporary visa scheme, set to run from October to Christmas Eve this year, the Government has now stated it will be extending and adding to these measures.

Aiming to attract hauliers, specifically to transport supplies including fuel, food and poultry, this scheme aims to “provide short term relief for the food and fuel industries and ensure the stability of the UK supply chain in the run up to Christmas”.

As such, 300 fuel drivers have now been permitted to arrive immediately and remain to work in the UK until March 2022.

A similar measure of extending work visas has been announced for 4,700 food haulage drivers who have now been permitted to work until the end of February next year.

Finally, the visa for poultry workers has also been extended by a week – initially forecast to end on the 24th December – but now finishing at the end of the month instead, aiming to offset any food shortages around the holiday season.

The Government noted that these “temporary, time-limited visa measures” do not detract from their commitment to upskill and increase the wages of the domestic labour but has been brought about by an “extraordinary set of circumstances”.

This shortage in HGV drivers is thought to be brought about by a number of factors including IR35, the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of Brexit, an ageing workforce, low wage and poor working conditions.

Steve Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, stated:

The Government has taken decisive action to tackle the short term disruption to our supply chains, and in particular the flow of fuel to forecourts.

We are now seeing the impact of these interventions with more fuel being delivered to forecourts than sold and, if people continue to revert to their normal buying patterns, we will see smaller queues and prevent petrol stations closing.

Prior to this change, Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium felt the measures laid out by the Government did not go far enough:

The limit of 5,000 visas will do little to alleviate the current shortfall. Supermarkets alone have estimated they need at least 15,000 HGV drivers for their businesses to be able to operate at full capacity ahead of Christmas and avoid disruption or availability issues.

We urge the Government to extend this programme, both in size and scope, to HGV drivers in all sectors of the retail industry.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denounced the idea of extending the visa limit to over 5000 workers, stating the “big lever marked uncontrolled immigration” would “not be pulled”.